Created By: passivesmoking on February 10, 2013

Heroic villainy

When a character does a good deed for selfish or even nefarious reasons

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Is there a trope for when a character (normally a villain or morally ambiguous character) performs an act that on the face of it seems good, but in fact benefits the character in some way and was motivated for selfish or even nefarious reasons? Examples include Cal from Titanic rescuing a small child purely to secure himself a seat in a lifeboat, and almost everything Gaius Baltar does on Battle Star Galactica.
Community Feedback Replies: 8
  • February 10, 2013
    Astaroth
    I think this is Pragmatic Villainy
  • February 10, 2013
    passivesmoking
    Not necessarily. Pragmatic Villainy is more focused on avoiding Kick The Dog moments or doing good things mainly to ensure a Villain With Good Publicity. This is stuff that's obviously motivated by selfishness that just happens to have a good deed as a side-effect (Cal saving the child in Titanic to get himself onto a lifeboat being the most obvious example I can think of). It wasn't an act of deliberate Pragmatic Villainy, merely a selfish deed with the saving of an innocent life purely being a side-effect.

  • February 10, 2013
    Astaroth
    Fair enough.

    • In the backstory of Goblins, Mryorg the ogre aquires the Axe of Prissan, an artifact which prevents a demon from invading the world. Mryorg is intensely sadistic, and initially decides to help free the demon from imprisonment for his own amusement, but after telepathically communing with the demon, he decides that he can get greater satisfaction from inflicting suffering on the demon by helping to keep it imprisoned, so he gives the axe to a paladin for safekeeping.
  • February 10, 2013
    Koveras
    Would Lex Luthor's actions in the Grand Finale of Justice League Unlimited count? After accidentally resurrecting Darkseid and thus allowing him to invade Earth, Luthor sacrifices himself to destroy both of them with the Anti-Life Equation.
  • February 10, 2013
    azul120
    ^^ That example happened because Tala was said to have screwed with the ritual as she was being used for the resurrection as one last middle finger.[/OT]
  • February 11, 2013
    StarSword
    Anti Villain ring a bell?
  • February 11, 2013
    Lophotrochozoa
    This sounds like Nominal Hero.
  • February 11, 2013
    passivesmoking
    I don't think either Anti Villain or Nominal Hero are the same as this, the first is a villain with sympathetic elements and/or motivations, the latter is a hero who doesn't really want to be/care about being a hero.

    I'm thinking specifically of an obvious villain doing something that's obviously self-serving that just happens to have a side-effect that could be considered a good deed.

    I definitely need a better name for this trope, the one I gave was just something to call it until something more suitable came up.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=pjahvcat57jcjvojg78ospef